SANDYSTON TOWNSHIP, NJ – For a rambling, spread out community with a state park on one side and a national recreation area on the other, Sandyston does a great imitation of a small town.
That is never more evident than when a community-wide event brings residents to the firehouse.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, Santa Claus paid a visit to the township, riding in on a sleigh towed not by reindeer, but by a truck driven by Lou Frato. He was escorted by a fire truck and firemen Tom Bracky, driving the truck, and Ed Drake, trailing Santa. After a parade from the municipal complex to Layton and back, Santa and his elves, Lauren Siebert and Duane Galambos, welcomed children to sit on Santa’s lap and tell what toys they want for Christmas. Rachel Demarest, who coordinated the event, said Santa is a member of the fire department.
The children each received a cup, pencil, bottle of bubbles and kaleidoscope in bright colors with Christmas-themed patterns.
Demerest said each year the committee,made up of firefighters and members of the auxiliary, anticipates between 175 and 250 people attending the event.
Kim Smith who was coordinating a table where children where coloring Christmas-themed pictures, said the group planned for 150 little artists. The colored pages were posted on the interior of one of the bay doors with the children’s names on each.
The committee has about 10 members each year and different members take different roles, Demarest said. She has been on the committee for three years and this was her first year in charge.
“This is the eighth year,” she said. “We added Santa’s sleigh this year,” but otherwise followed the same routine as last year.
Local businesses donated food and drink, which included pizzas, cookies and red juice. They also donated the goody bags, which came wrapped in cellophane, and toys which were raffled off in a non-paying raffle to the children. The committee thanked the Hainesville Store, Dingman’s Ferry Bridge, Kountry Kennels, Hidden Cares, Fresh Pickens and Ayers.
Township Clerk Amy Lobban said not only the children get excited by Santa’s visit. “We look forward to it every year.”
Lobban, who grew up in the township, as did her mother, said, “it’s always been a close knit, nice place to raise a family. Everyone shares, works hard does things to give back to the community.” She noted old-timers and newcomers work together. “We take them all in,” she said, noting Sandyston is not like towns who regard people as transients if they haven’t lived here for 20 years.
“We don’t put an age limit on the kids who can come,” Demerest said.
Lobban noted, “Seventh and eighth graders come with their friends just for the event, or older kids have to come with their brothers and sisters.”
Firemen bring their families, she said, noting it’s one time the entire family can be together. She praised the firemen who put in so much time on calls and taking care of the equipment and then take the time to plan events like the summer tractor pull and Santa’s visit.
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